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Emmanuelle Chriqui reminds us of the head cheerleader at our high school: pretty, perky, and, most annoying of all, nice. But the down-to-earth star has one thing that Cheery Cheersalot never did: actual talent. The Entourage star has already proven that she can hang with the boys. Now, two new projects give Chriqui a chance to show that she can keep up with kings of comedy (Adam Sandler in this month’s You Don’t Mess with the Zohan) and Oscar-winning thespians (Adrien Brody in the upcoming Cadillac Records). As if that weren’t enough, she’s trying her hand at directing as well. If we didn’t love her so much, we’d hate her.

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Don’t hate Emmanuelle Chriqui, star of Entourage and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, because she’s beautiful.

Emmanuelle Chriqui is raving -- truly raving -- about a recent Hollywood release. “It might have been the funniest thing I’ve ever seen,” she says. “Have you seen it?” The release in question? It’s not this year’s Oscar winner or a weekend blockbuster. No, it’s Sarah Silverman’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! ditty turned Internet sensation declaring her, ah, affection for one Matt Damon. Therein lies the appeal of Chriqui, a young actress who has been a regular on HBO’s Entourage and on “sexiest” lists in men’s magazines: She’s gorgeous but also down-to-earth. Nice, even. Maybe that’s because Chriqui (pronounced “Shree-key”) is from Canada, a nation renowned for its friendliness, and, for that matter, its comedians. This month, Chriqui gets to show her funny bone on film as she costars in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan alongside Adam Sandler.

So, let’s get this straight. In Zohan, Adam Sandler plays an Israeli soldier who becomes a hairdresser? Yes. Adam essentially fakes his own death to get out of Israel and pursue his real dream of becoming a hairdresser in New York City. His dream is to work for Paul Mitchell. He ends up getting a job at a Palestinian hair salon, which is my hair salon. I play a Palestinian. We become friends and, of course, fall in love. It’s kind of like West Side Story, but with Palestinians and Israelis.

I imagine it’s a pretty good time when you’re making a movie with Adam Sandler. His set is known in the industry as a place where you have the best time of your life. And it surpassed what everybody told me. But it was not just that -- there was so much amazing creative energy going on all day. You know, I found myself doing a scene with Adam and Judd Apatow, and I was like, Pinch me; is this real?

Tell us how you got in the business in the first place. I always knew that I wanted to be in something in the arts, even as a little, little girl. But my moment happened when I was seven years old. My friend’s dad ran the local theater company, and he asked me if I wanted to audition for a play, which I did. My first role ever was that of a baby ghost. I was hooked. That moment changed my life. I did theater for years and then went to a performing-arts high school that had just been built in the town of Unionville, Ontario, where I lived. I majored in theater and then started doing commercials in Toronto. I moved to L.A. in my early 20s.

You also did a lot of work in Vancouver-based TV productions on your way down to L.A. Does that mean there was no waitressing for you? I got my first movie role three months after I moved to L.A. So, no, I never had a second job there, because I went with a real résumé. I was lucky enough not to be flailing. That isn’t to say I didn’t have rainy days. I slept on friends’ couches and had to find friends to drive me to auditions because I didn’t have a car.

Now you’ve got a car and a recurring role as Sloan, Kevin Connolly’s girlfriend on Entourage. What’s it like being a girl on that set?Entourage is what it is. It’s a guy’s show. And here’s the thing: The show depicts something about Hollywood that is true. As sad as it is to depict women like the show does -- as big-boobed, no-brained women -- well, guess what? Hollywood actually has a lot of that.

Do you, then, worry about getting named to those “sexiest” lists? I mean, is it flattery or just plain sexism? Um, flattery. It’s an interesting thing, because our industry is so focused on how we look, whether we want it to be or not. You have to take the attention from the men’s magazines as flattery. I’m just glad I’m not on the “what is she wearing?” lists!

Right now, you’re working on a movie -- Cadillac Records, which costars Adrien Brody -- that requires you to be more covered up than, say, Maxim would. Yes. [The movie] is loosely based on the life of Muddy Waters and his relationship with Leonard Chess, who was a huge music producer. I play Leonard Chess’s wife. It is different from anything I’ve ever done. I play a very modest, conservative 1950s housewife who stands by her man in this dirty, dirty business no matter what. It’s the least vain character I’ve ever played. So, really, I think those men’s magazines will think twice after seeing this.

And you’ve even dipped your toes into directing. I directed a three-minute short starring [Golden State Warrior] Baron Davis for the IFC [Independent Film Channel] called Framed. I spent three days with Baron, went to his place in Las Vegas, and went all around L.A. In the short, we wanted to show his fans something they didn’t know about Baron, and it turns out that he is passionate about roller skating. So we did this ’70s-fabulous segment of him skating with his boom box in downtown L.A. At the end, I was, like, That’s it, I want to be a director.